Impressions about the Davos meeting (January 2023). Reasons for optimism?

"During the traditional meeting in the small mountain town of Davos of the Global Economic Forum, political and business leaders at a global level reflected on the new geostrategic, macroeconomic context, sustainability, technological challenges and everything related to talent."

On February 8 FIDE held the session “Impressions about the Davos meeting (January 2023). Reasons for optimism?. We count as a speaker with Francisco Uria Fernandez, Banking & Capital Markets Global Head of KPMG and also Partner in charge of the financial sector in Spain and Academic Advisor of Fide and moderated the session Ricardo Martinez Rico, Executive President of Equipo Económico.

The week of January 16 to 20, the traditional meeting took place in the small mountainous town of Davos (Switzerland) of the Global Economic Forum (World Economic Forum) after the interruption of major events forced by the pandemic. During that week, global political and business leaders reflected on the new geostrategic and macroeconomic context, sustainability, technological challenges and everything related to talent.

Francis Uria, He had the opportunity to participate in a good number of meetings with various global players and companies and shared with us his personal reflections on the global trends that were visible in those days. We collect in these brief notes some of them.

Francisco began his speech by referring to the fact that the first word that usually appears in all customs in those and these days is uncertainty, something to which we have been getting used to in recent years and which has its last cause in a situation that has been described with the new concept of Polycrisis, to designate a crisis with very different causes that combine the geostrategic, the economic, the health...

We have to get used to the idea that this uncertainty is going to live with us for some time. The good news is that managers around the world have learned to manage it and take advantage of the opportunities it can bring.

The next point has to do with the general tone observed in the conversations, and that has been reflected in the media. we could talk about a moderate optimism or to use the expression that was heard the most in Davos, of cautious optimism. And it is that, despite the difficulties, the truth is that the situation is now somewhat better than feared. If we compare the atmosphere of a few months ago with that experienced since the IMF meeting, held in November 2022, a very important change in perception is detected, for the better.

Francisco tried to give us some image of Davos in that week of April and commented that it is a small town, in the Swiss mountains, in which the frenetic activity of those days is concentrated in a few streets where a painted building stood out. in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, to remind us all of the tragedy that continues to take place there, the striking presence of India, including that of its regions and companies, and also that of a good number of technological companies of various technical, in addition, of course, to the headquarters of numerous financial institutions and professional services firms among which, of course, was KPMG.

Compared to previous meetings, the European role was somewhat greater due to the absence of senior government representatives from United States y Asia, although the business presence was somewhat more balanced.

Returning to the cautious optimism that was reflected in the conversations, Francisco Uría shared with us that, once the complexity of the current situation has been discussed, financial institutions usually enter into a conversation about the opportunities of the moment and the need to continue investing in various areas , such as those related to sustainability in all its dimensions, digital transformation and also the attraction and retention of talent.

Francisco highlighted how the conversation on technological issues and those related to sustainability is becoming more and more unified, with a part of the debates focused on the search for technological solutions that can help financial institutions to capture and process the data they need of their clients, especially in the caso of small and medium enterprises.

It is evident that the digital agenda and sustainability They will be the great protagonists of the evolution of the European company in the coming years, driven by the investment of European funds.

There is also a striking process of overcoming traditional barriers between sectors so that some of the most interesting conversations mix issues such as the challenges of energy efficiency, mobility, sustainable finance and technology.

One last question had to do with the debate on the globalization.

There is no doubt that the globalization that we experienced after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and which gave us a long period of global growth with low inflation, has disappeared or, at least, has mutated.

There is now open talk of deglobalization, of fragmentation and, faced with the growth of international trade, new concepts emerge such as the "nearshoring" or the "friendshoring” that in both casoThey show a relevant change, the appearance of new political blocs that will be less cooperative with each other. This change is guided more by geostrategic than economic considerations and will undoubtedly mean that the forces that have kept inflation low in recent decades may have a less relevant contribution.

In such a complex context, the reality of the global strength of the financial sector, stronger than ever in terms of capital and liquidity after the transformation brought about by the regulation arising from the global financial crisis, is one of the most positive elements. Another of Davos's observations was its unequivocal desire to accompany its clients and also countries (even emerging ones) in their double digital and sustainable transformation.

Faced with this, and together with the geostrategic threats that we have seen, rises the double threat that for families and companies represents the combination of high inflation, which, especially in the caso of subjacent inflation, continues to remain high, and the interest rate hikes agreed by the central banks in order to control it. Although the ghost of the recession has receded, at least momentarily, it is true that we have to think in the long term and take measures that help us look to the future with confidence, especially in Europe.

All this was present in the conversations that took place in Davos but, beyond this, Francisco wanted to share with us some very personal reflections derived from what he saw and heard there.

Short-termism will not help us. Europe has common problems, such as the aging of the population, low economic growth or the limited capacity for technological innovation, and others that are specific and specific to the political agenda of each country. We need to regain our attractiveness as an investment destination.

The great European countries face great challenges, very different from each other, such as those of a Great Britain definitively separated (what a pity!) from the European Union but which will necessarily be a political ally and an economic partner, a France faces challenges different, among which I would highlight the prolonged resistance to accepting reforms that, such as that of pensions, seem inevitable, and Germany has to redefine its production model since it will no longer be able to count on the guarantee of low-priced energy supply from Russia. These are just a few examples.

In the caso Spanish we have old and new challenges; the improvement of education, professional training, the employment of young and old, the pension reform, the necessary updating of our tax system and the reduction of our level of public indebtedness to comply with future European rules, which sooner or later soon they will recover the necessary fiscal discipline, although without making the mistakes of the past. Finally, Francisco referred to one of the key issues for growth, the training of professionals, the new economy needs profiles that cannot be found, There is a clear war for talent, and this is an issue to be corrected, it is an important issue on the global agenda... educating young people and training active professionals is an issue that we cannot lose sight of and that must be addressed as soon as possible.

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